When you reach to the level of The Neptunes—somewhere beyond the stratosphere—the future can go two ways: coast by peeling money rolls ’til their thumbs get the paper cuts, or they could work a jillion times harder proving their true hunger for more. Pharrell, Chad, and Shay, as N.E.R.D did the latter becoming arguably one of the hardest-working bands when they don’t really need to be. We thank them for their dedication. If they didn’t step from behind the artists they produced mega-hits for, then there we’d be missing the icons responsible for some of today’s most inventive music, re-inventing itself with each album.
When we watched (and Tweeted) N.E.R.D take Irving Plaza last week, they were in rare form, again. This was not the same band that spanned the United States, from college to college; definitely not the same band that closed out the final show of last year’s “Glow In The Dark” tour with Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco at The Garden. Actually, this might have been their best show yet because they touched on every major point of The Neptunes’ side project. In their latest video from their forthcoming album Nothing, N.E.R.D captured the scene from their recent tour stop through Philly, showing the unanimous support for their adrenaline rush of a stage show. Here we collected five of the best N.E.R.D videos that capture last week’s spectacle.
N.E.R.D “ROCK STAR”
Half-pipes, mesh trucker hats, and knee-high tube socks, remember you were watching a rap video in 2002. Better yet, you witnessed the new wave of alternative rap, in the post-Native Tongue era. The jocks had met their match—nerds! Just like the supporting cast of goons that joined the most agro of rappers, N.E.R.D brought along their own team of degenerates, or in this case, band geeks and skate rats. Huge productions featuring a mob of kids like in “Rock Star” would become staples of N.E.R.D shows henceforth. And you thought MC Hammer had an entourage, ha!
N.E.R.D. F. NELLY FURTADO “HOT & FUN”
Man, Temple University, you guys got lucky with a huge shoutout from Skateboard P for your support for “alternaitve music.” Well, it is 2010, and everyone that experiments beyond what people peg them for can be considered the curveball. Rapping in a weird key over something totally bonkers that no one has seen or heard before, expect for “alternative” to rear its mutated head. Everyone’s doing it these days, so how can N.E.R.D still set themselves apart from today’s norm? They’ve tried new things for each album, some have been sonic changes others have been a new way to visualize their imagination on say The Neptunes’ take on drum and bass or jazz. The answer: they’re about to be four albums deep in doing so, mission accomplished.
N.E.R.D “EVERYONE NOSE”
When N.E.R.D puts on a show, expect cameos. Q-Tip, and even Stephen Hill from BET got shoutouts at last week’s NYC performance. As for the ladies in attendance, at least in the case for the shooting of the “Everyone Nose” video, let’s just say the ones that are on-hand show more than just face—they party their asses off. Look for Lindsay Lohan, Kanye West and a giant phallic KAWS mascot on N.E.R.D’s shortlist of friends.
The synesthesia theme of Seeing Sounds came to life in another video displaying N.E.R.D’s on-stage energy. Instead of picturing the ambient snare and high hat rolls in color, they chose to wash the their road show in black and white. Watching Pharrell’s on-stage acrobatics of jump kicks is like watching a hyper-kinetic cartoon character morph into live action. It’s gotta be the splashes of ink in post production illustrating what it feels like to spaz.
N.E.R.D F. SANTIGOLD “SOLDIER” (LIVE ON LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON)
Around this time last year, N.E.R.D. had just wrapped a world premiere of their new song “Soldier.” If you were still brimming from the anthem that had kids re-reciting nursery rhymes for no apparent reason to the jungle-infused “Spaz” then “Soldier” would be your speed, literally. It’s a blue moon when N.E.R.D is joined by a female singer on a record, but Santigold made the rare exception by revisiting her punk roots in Stiffed with a record that had the raucous edge of teen rebellion. Compared to the crazy, wild hysteria we’ve seen from N.E.R.D this doesn’t come close, at all. But they are just as bold by going against the grain, treating Jimmy Fallon’s show as a litmus test for the new track, instead of the internet of course.